Monday, June 9, 2008

American Realism Part 2: The Revenge of Condi

Condoleezza Rice dips into her trusty boilerplate machine to pump out the headline story in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. (For comparison, they also have her 2000 essay up here.) Clearly, this is a case of a sequel that was written just to cash in on the original and bring back the old characters for a tired rehash of another round. Except for reversing herself on nation-building (now she's in favor of it, but in 2000 she sniffed at "humanitarian interests" or the interests of "the international community"), there is nothing even remotely controversial here. Lesse...

- 9/11 changed everything? Check.
- China and Russia are competitors but not enemies, so we can continue to work with them and blame them for everything at the same time? Check.
- Democracy is good and we should be promoting it? Check.
- Latin America is important? Check.
- We should continue to be allied with Europe? Check. (Oh, and "hopefully, the day will come when Turkey takes its place in the EU." Glad we know where she stands on that. Oh wait... she didn't take a stand at all. Hey!)

The only controversial point is where Rice repeats her well-used line that for 60 years, we "focused exclusively on stability" in the Middle East, thus implying that unilateral regime change a la Iraq is now in keeping with America's idealistic tradition. But even then, she doubles back completely on this point later, confessing "hard choices" in picking friends in the region: "we do need capable friends in the broader Middle East who can root out terrorist now. These states are often not democratic, so we must balance the tensions between our short-term and our long-term goals. We cannot deny nondemocratic states the security assistance to fight terrorism or defend themselves." She does continue, "[a]t the same time, we must use other points of leverage to promote democracy and hold our friends to account." But the damage is done. We'll continue providing military assistance to Egypt and Saudi Arabia of course, so... um... how exactly is this different from the last 60 years?

When Rice gets to the Iraq invasion, she trots out the Nazi Germany analogies (we didn't invade Germany to turn it into a democracy either, she argues, but that was part of the plan). As they say, in a debate, the first side to mention Hitler loses.

All told, for a Secretary of State who represents the most diplomatically detested administration quite possibly ever, I feel like this essay could have taken some chances. After all, what has she got to lose? The administration's prestige?

Instead, we get such a thorough recycling of phrases that I actually could have written most of it myself, and agreed with much of it.

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